The video game industry relies heavily on visuals to satisfy their players, as we see the game simulating a third-person or first-person point of view.
However, there are about 253 million* people in this world who are blind or have an uncorrectable visual impairment, defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses. At the moment, very few games are developed with visual impairment accessibility in mind. The branch of audio gaming is gaming for users who are blind or visually impared. These games can be played without visual feedback and instead use audio-based techniques such as audio cues or synthetic speech.
Project partnered with St.Joseph's School for the Blind.
Meet Pea, from Pea's Journey:)
Pea's Journey, a computer-based game, is designed to operate primarily on sound-based cues and work as a platformer game. The inspiration for this game comes from Geometry Dash and Temple run. The focus will be to have sufficient contrast and on-time obstacles based on the song's rhythms, or customized instrumental beats.
Winter Development 🛠☃️
Stage 1: Research
Research was put into determining the best type of game for this project. Talking to experts, reading articles, and watching documentaries about gaming accessibility led to the decision to create a Sound-based platformer game.
Stage 2: Hosting Platform
Picking a hosting platform was challenging. Initially, a game file was started on Gdevelop 5. As a no-code system, this platform relied on the creator to have an in-depth understanding of programming concepts. The process of inserting conditions, variables, and scenes was identical to writing pseudo-code for a program. The challenge wasn't in creating pseudo-code, but in navigating/locating the appropriate commands in their system.
Stage 3: Learning + Tutorials
Using tutorials from GDevelop's Youtube channel, and online forum, I learned the mechanics of the program.
Stage 4: Basic Design
With a white background and a small platform, the goal of the basic scene design was to ensure there was sufficient contrast, so people with low vision can interpret the elements on the screen without too much struggle.
Stage 5: First game update + Feedback from kids at St.Joseph's.
!! Video edited v.roughly to fit file size limitation !! The first draft of the project was submitted through video to the kids at St. Joseph's. The feedback received was invaluable. We discussed elements like contrast, speed, background color, and potential sound cues and song use.
Stage 6: Breakthrough
After a lot of playing around, the commands for ensuring a sound is played before a jump was finally 'discovered'. This was a huge breakthrough in the project as it was essentially the backbone of the project. I was also able to get the Score feature to work which resets after Pea hits an obstacle.
Stage 7: Published & Feedback
The first prototype of the game is live🎉
Pea's Journey can be played on https://liluo.io/nidhisakpal through your computer, and direct feedback from the site is very appreciated!
Current Play Count: 63
Stage 8: To be continued...
I've received a lot of feedback, and am working to implement it into Pea's Journey. Some of my goals for the near future are adding a variety of obstacles, bringing it to touch-based devices (like phones and tablets), adding different levels, and slowly increasing game difficulty. After further development, I will also release Pea's Journey to the web, mobile, and desktop platforms (like Itch.io, google play, and the iOS App Store).
Spring Development 🛠🌷
Stage 9:Start of Spring Program/ Expanding Game.
As our NSF Grant expands to include the spring season, a lot of updates are underway using the feedback received from the winter season.
Stage 10: Start & End scenes (Jan 22, 2023)
Added start and end scenes to the story so players can restart their game when comfortable. Also added background music to make the game more enjoyable.
Exciting Update!(March 6, 2023)
Pea's Journey was honored to be given a chance to share the development story on GDevelop's blog page– the very own engine Pea's journey was built on! Check out the blog here: https://tinyurl.com/peasjourneyblog
Thank you to...
I want to thank ML Makerspace, the University of Colorado, and the (NSF) National Science Foundation's Grant program for this incredible opportunity and journey as a Build a Better Book intern. As this project continues in Spring, Pea's Journey will undergo a lot of changes that will be implemented. I want to thank all the knowledgeable and awesome feedback that was received from students at St. Josephs, and all the accessibility experts I was fortunate to meet and share ideas with, who guided my decisions with the game.
This project helped me learn more about different communities and allowed me to be more knowledgeable about inclusive design. When designing everyday objects, I think it's really important that designers consider all types of consumers and users, and not only focus on young, fully able-bodied people to create their designs. Through projects and programs like this, we can build a framework of inclusivity among young designers, which will impact the future as we start our careers and solve problems on a large scale. Our differences in communities should be celebrated, and we can do this by making the world more inclusive through our impact. And it all starts here, at the Mountain Lakes Makerspace :)
Until the next update 👋🏼
Citations & Credits